Jan 10, 2018

Staffing it out

I started this a while ago, and never published it. How long ago? Fortunately, I wrote it in a Google Doc, so I know that it was July 19, 2017, sometime between 3:59 AM and 4:19 AM. I could get more specific, but that's good enough, isn't it?

Here's what I wrote. Plus rewrote because, me.

Most of the time when people think they have been interacting with me they have been dealing with something that seems a lot like me but isn't to me. You might call it an automaticity, or a facade, a sub-personality, or a surrogate, or what Internal Family Systems describes as a “Part” or “Family Member.” Whatever it is, it acts for me and acts a lot like me. But it is not me. Sometimes I'm there watching. But most of the time I'm not there at all.

Almost no one in notices this.

Except Bobbi. Sometimes she notices it and says something. Sometimes she notices it and doesn't say something. Or at least that's what she says she does when I've asked her about it. Maybe she's the only person who seems to know the difference.  Or maybe I'm surrounded by people who know the difference and are too polite to say anything.

I can use different helpful metaphors to describe these surrogates acting for me. One is to think of them as my staff. I'm the busy executive responsible for running all the complexities of my life. When I've got something that needs doing I can do it myself, or I can staff it out. I'll staff it out intentionally if I don't think that it's worth my personal attention. And sometimes, before I decide to do or not to do, a member of my staff steps in and takes over. I don't even have to ask, that's how good they are. They're well-disciplined and well-trained. And they do a great job of impersonating me.

Of course, none of my staff does anything as well as I do. I'm the one they learned from. I'm the original article and I've got the full power of my brain at my command--when I choose to command. But they're good.

I'm both proud of and annoyed by my staff. I'm proud that they're so competent--which means that I must have done a good job training them. Or modeling behavior for them. Whatever. People of low ability can carry on routine tasks, and my staff carries out mind-numbingly boring tasks just fine. You have to be a lot better--but not that good--to engage socially. Bobbi's Dad was well down the road to Alzheimer's dementia and no one noticed--until you'd talked with him for a while and notice that he's started repeating himself. As the condition got worse, the repetition interval shortened.

But seeming intelligent and being witty takes more skill than many people can muster, even at their best. My staff can not only engage socially but access much of my vast store of interesting facts and factoids. And they can access "joke patterns" that I've collected and even seem to be making new, clever remarks when really they're only filling in the slots in a template. 

Still, my is usually VERY good.  I've created something that is able to pass the Turing test and seem to be a human. I'm a human. But they're not. They're just very good imitators.

I'm annoyed sometimes because I want to be experiencing my life directly more than I do. At least, that's what I tell myself I want. And that's what I believe that I believe. Yes, there are times when I want to check out and think deep thoughts while my staff carry on. But there are other times when I want to be fully engaged. I want to be experiencing the things that I am doing things. I want the experience to be direct and full-fidelity, not filtered through a memory recording my brain has made.

The problem is that sometimes my staff step in and do something that I'd rather be doing myself. I've left instructions. I've said: "When this happens, call me. I at least want to be present, if not doing it myself." But they don't comply, the insubordinate sons-of-bitches. Sometimes they think that they can do it better (they can't.) And sometimes, just like me, I suppose, the like the feeling of a job well done. Or well enough done.

I know I am capable of doing a better job than any of my staff, and sometimes when I realize that a staff member's doing something that I'd like to do, that I'd do better, I don't step in. Why do I do that? I think I'm like a proud parent who allows a precocious kid to act like a grown up. Maybe the kid's answering the phone and taking a message. The parent can do that a lot better, but the kid is doing well enough. It's a grown-up thing and the kid wants to do it. So you let them do it.

When Bobbi notices that I'm not present she’ll often say “Where are you? You’re not here.” It's annoying. It's not annoying because it's wrong, but because of a confusion about identities. She's saying  “Where are you? You’re not here.” to me. But I'm not there. I don't receive the communication; a staffer gets it.  The staffer who is on duty when she says “You're not here” is actually there and gets annoyed. They react defensively, and say "I am here." Because they are. But she's right because I am not.

I need to issue orders to all staff: "When you're told you're not here, please don't defend yourself. Go and get me and at least ask me if I want to be there." That will make my life better. If they follow my instructions.

This post, like others in this series (not to self, collect the series and link here) was mainly written by me but with help from my staff. Good job, guys. Let's post this